Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wherein I am spoiled

My milk went bad. So I just found myself mentally bitching to myself that I have to either a) go a whole block to get coffee and then it will be a bit cold when I get home and I'll have to microwave it! or b) do my whole grocery shopping without coffee in my system! or c) go to the corner store and get the milk that's slightly less yummy! and then go home and make coffee and go back out to do my errands! or d) go to a coffee shop and just sit there drinking coffee!

And then I found myself thinking that this is all so annoying that I can't possibly go shoe shopping today, it's all I can do to just go get a supply of food and booze, and I'll have to put off the shoe shopping until tomorrow!

Perhaps I need some real problems.


Dear Neighbours: I apologize for the water main break. I think that was the universe's response to this post.

Dear Universe: I get it that you want to give me problems and, strictly speaking, I suppose I did ask for them. But next time maybe you could do it without inconveniencing the entire street?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Me and My Llama

When I first saw this on Sesame Street as a little kid, I didn't question the plausibility of the situation. Now I desperately want to know the backstory.

Grande mort par petites morts

According to Broadsheet, there are sex ed programs in Texas with the thesis OMG, you're all gonna DIE! (traduction libre).

So here's the thing: when I was that age, I wouldn't have minded dying. Actually I still wouldn't exactly mind - the inevitability of death makes me rather blasé about it - but at that age with the bullies and the schoolbuses and the parental demands and societal expectations and no idea that it would ever get easier and being told "These are the best years of your life," my reaction to the idea of dying was "At least I could finally get some peace and quiet!"

Because I'm a late bloomer emotionally, my interest in sex didn't come until a year or two after sex ed was over, and my virginity didn't feel like a burden until even later.

However, if the phase of my life where I considered my virginity a burden had occurred earlier and the phase of my life where I would have welcomed death with open arms had extended a couple more years, and if during this time I had honestly seriously truly believed that having sex would make me die, I totally would have actively sought out sex at the first available opportunity, regardless of quality. My unwanted virginity was primarily due to lack of desirable, suitable and willing partners. If I had seriously thought that sex would cause my death, I would totally have narrowed those criteria down to just willing, or maybe even unenthusastic but coerceable.

So perhaps it isn't the best strategy for sex ed at a difficult age.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things They Should Invent: introvert/extrovert temporary switch medication

Introverts, picture this: You have oh so terribly many errands to do and phone calls to make. But the more you do, the more places you go and things you see and people you talk to, the more energized you'll feel. Wouldn't that be useful?

Extroverts, picture this: You're stuck at home all alone with no one to talk to for hours and hours and hours. But the more time that passes all alone, the better and happier and more energized and revitalized you feel. Wouldn't that be useful?

We wouldn't want this to be permanent or ongoing. Speaking as an innie, getting bored when alone in my head sounds like living hell, and I'm sure extros would get frustrated living with our slow, easily-stimulated brains. But it would be so convenient to be able to switch every once in a while!

They know the neuroscience, so why can't they make us a drug to do this?

Computer animation

A sketch from Important Things with Demetri Martin:

The animation is a bit crude, isn't it? (Not that it matters - Demetri Martin usually uses line drawings on a flip chart - but it something I noticed.)

But there was a point in my lifetime when that silly little animation would have been cutting edge. And there was a point in my lifetime when the technology didn't exist to make that silly little animation. That's really weird if you think about it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When the audience doesn't know (or care) what the music is

My iTunes gave me El Tango de Roxanne (from Moulin Rouge) and it occurred to me that it would be a good figure skating program. So I went googling and it seems Yu-Na Kim did it a year or two ago (and very impressively indeed!)

But the thing I forgot about figure skating music is a) they take out the lyrics, and b) people clap along at the slightest provocation. So while the end result was still a tango, without the lyrics it wasn't nearly as sexually aggressive as the original, and the audience was merrily clapping along to this dirtyish song about a prostitute and her jealous lover.

I'd still like to see it done in pairs skating though.


Surely this is symbolic of everything that's wrong with the world today

Grammar Nazis

I suppose this was inevitable...

(Langlings: make sure you read the subtitles)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Analogy for why Canada needs to help Omar Khadr

Suppose you have underage nieces/nephews. Due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, their parents (i.e. your siblings) are unable to provide them with some necessity - food, shoes, education, dental work, something that children should reasonably be able to expect their guardians to provide. You are able to provide this necessity to these kids, and the amount of sacrifice required to do so is well within acceptable parameters. So you totally do it, unhesitatingly. There is no question.

Now suppose, instead of being due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, the inability to provide is a direct result of your siblings' actions. They've been total dickheads, done stuff that you think is not only idiotic but morally wrong and reflects poorly on all of you, completely fucked up so badly their reputation will never recover, and they've brought their kids into it and gotten them thinking these reprehensible actions are not only normal but laudable. And as a result of these actions, their children are lacking this necessity.

You still totally have to help the children. There's no question. Yeah, you might get a bit cranky about having to spend your hard-earned money just because your asshat sibling fucked up. Yeah, it's frustrating when the kids start spouting their parents' propoganda. But you have to at least give it a try, maybe use your influence to introduce the kids to other points of view and ways of life. You can always cut them off later if they prove as incorrigible as their parents. You certainly don't just ignore the fact that they're doing without school supplies just because you don't like their parents.

Similarly, we shouldn't be refusing to help Omar Khadr just because we don't like his parents or because he was in a situation that he was forced into by his parents.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why people aren't writing about the economy as a feminist issue

Broadsheet asks why no one is writing about the economy as a feminist issue.

The answer is simple: it's more effective not to. People who are into feminism will read articles that aren't specifically about feminism, but people who aren't into feminism will skip over or dis the credibility of articles that are about feminism. Positioning it as a feminist issue sets up a giant Someone Else's Problem field around the article.

An article with a title like "How the economic crisis is affecting women" would get skipped over by male readers and anti-feminist readers, and women who aren't affected in the way described in the article would leave partway through. (Think about how you skip the Women's Issues section of your local politician's website when all their articles are about childcare and you don't have young children.) However, an article with a title like "How the economic crisis is affecting people in fields that aren't receiving stimulus dollars" would attract readers from everywhere but the stimulus fields. The vast majority of people work in non-stimulus fields and the vast majority of people are at least a little bit worried about their jobs, so it would get their attention. And if every single person interviewed in the article happened to be female, I doubt the readers would even notice.

Album meme

The rules:

1. Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random” or click The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2. Go to Random quotations or click The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3. Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days” or click Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5. Post it.

I'm far too lazy to do a proper photoshopping job, so I spent a whole 30 seconds using Paint. It very nearly works.

Why I am currently a pile of goo puddled on the floor

Soft fluffy yellow puppy!

How are you supposed to know what is and is not obvious to people who are smarter than you?

While googling for phraseology, I landed on an article about the issues doctors have with treating teenage patients.

Then comes recognizing that the early teen years are when kids move from concrete thinking to more abstract thought – they begin to connect the dots, Biro explains. They may assume the doctor connected the dots the same way, meaning a girl who complains of stomach pain may not volunteer that she fears pregnancy.

"It's not that they're withholding information. They figure they've just told you everything you need to know because the rest of it you should be able to figure out," Biro says. "I prove to them I am indeed about as smart as mud and I have to ask them more probing questions."

They make this sound like a flaw in people skills that is the result of adolescent immaturity. The thing is, I've always had this problem my whole life, and still do. When something is completely obvious to me, it doesn't occur to me that it might not be completely obvious to someone who's supposed to be smarter than me. The patient with the stomach pain doesn't mention that she fears pregnancy because it's completely obvious to her that that's what she's worried about - just like if I had missed a period and was experiencing nausea, I might not think to explicitly mention to the doctor that I'm worried about pregnancy because it's completely obvious to me that that's where the symptoms are pointing.

If I know more about the issue at hand than my interlocutor, I can manage the interaction just fine. For example, as a result of years of working to make documents that were originally written in French sound like they were written in English, I can tell if a person speaking is thinking in French or English, regardless of which of those languages they're speaking. If my interlocutor is another translator, I won't even point this out because it's so obvious. If my interlocutor is unilingual, I'll tell them outright from my position as the authority on the subject, maybe pointing out the specific word choices that give it away. If my interlocutor is a non-translator langling, I'll probe a bit to see what is and isn't obvious to them and adapt accordingly.

However, when I know less than my interlocutor, I'm unable to assess and adapt to their knowledge. For example, my gaydar doesn't ping nearly as often as it should. It pinged for Scott Thompson and Stephen Fry, but not Graham Chapman or Rick Mercer. So if it's obvious to me that someone is gay, it would never occur to me to tell my interlocutor that that person is gay any more than it would occur to me to mention that they have brown hair, because when it's obvious to me it's usually obvious to everyone else. If it isn't obvious to my interlocutor, I have no way of knowing that because empirical evidence suggests that when it's obvious to me it's obvious to anyone with better people-reading skills than me (which is like 90% of the population).

So how am I, from my position as the more ignorant person in the conversation, supposed to know that what I think are obvious pregnancy symptoms don't look that way to a doctor? How am I supposed to know that the most obvious of gayness isn't evident to someone who is much better at reading people than I am? When it's glaringly obvious to me that the property tax model is injust or it's morally wrong to buy pets from pet stores when there are pets in shelters or eliminating plastic shopping bags is not going to affect the number of plastic bags that we throw in the landfill, how am I supposed to know that it isn't glaringly obvious to my much-smarter interlocutor? How do you develop this skill?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dana Fuchs has miracle hair

Check this out:

She has long wild sexy awesome hair, probably three times as much as I do, with no clips or anything in it. She's on stage, under lights, singing, tossing her head around, arguing with her boyfriend, and only ONCE does a piece of hair fall in front of her eyes. I look down at my keyboard and a piece of hair falls in front of my eyes.

How to create a Canadian political legacy in a single session of Parliament

Today I discovered that there is an Amnesty International report on Canada. That surprised me, I wasn't expecting it.

However, upon reading it, I noticed that it would be relatively simple to address these issues. Most of them could be legislated away. The Aboriginal issues are more complex and would require some serious work, but the rest could be addressed by passing suitable legislation, signing onto UN conventions, and making the policy changes Amnesty International was kind enough to outline right in their report.

A savvy prime minister could do all this in a single session of Parliament. If they're getting resistance to the necessary legislation, all they'd have to do is publicly announce that their goal is clear our Amnesty International rap sheet and make us the world leader in human rights. That will get enough popular support to pass anything and guarantee a legacy that will go down in the history books for centuries.

There are people/media who like to gloat because Canada is the only G7 country that hasn't had any bank failures. Imagine the bragging rights if we were also the only G7 country with a clean Amnesty International report!

Things I Don't Understand

1. People who automatically assume other people's motives are different from what their own would be in the same situation. Fake but representative example:

"OMG, that bitch has her office door closed! She's totally snubbing me!"
"Does this mean you're snubbing us when you close your door?"
"No, of course not, I just close my door when I need to make private phone calls. But she's totally snubbing me!"

I don't understand how people can do that. And I'm not saying this in a lamenting-humanity's-lack-of-empathy way, I'm saying that my brain simply does not do that and I totally don't grok how people can. My brain always defaults to assuming others' motives are the same as my own, and it's actual work to move away from that and land on something else. But some people seem to do that rather often. I'd love to dissect their brains.

2. People who are surprised that Kids Today are familiar with music that isn't from their era. Nearly all the music we consume is recorded! Of course people are familiar with things that aren't of this very moment. I am certain that you personally, anyone at all who is reading this, have at least passing familiarity with some music by Beethoven, Louis Armstrong, The Rolling Stones, and Beyonce, even though most of those are probably not of your era. And I'm sure you don't think it's any big deal at all. It's just walking around and living in the world. But a surprising number of times I've encountered adults who are surprised and impressed when a teenager has a passing familiarith with The Beatles.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why every organization should hire language geeks

Someone like me could have saved the Irish police a lot of trouble.

Dear CBC, you're embarassing us

Dear CBC:

Yes, it is news that Barack Obama is visiting Ottawa. However, devoting literally 50% of your top-of-the-hour world news spot to that fact is kind of excessively fangirl. Be cool and do your job instead of going all asquee.


Someone who learned that lesson in high school

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why are there railings in elevators?

An elevator I was in made a weird jolt, so I grabbed the railing. Then I laughed at myself because holding the railing is not going to help at all if the elevator goes plummeting.

So what are the railings there for anyway?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Things They Should Invent: relative karmameter

I recently came up with the idea of a karmameter that tallies up all your virtues and vices and tells you how well you're doing in general. The idea behind this is that constantly trying to improve in every aspect of life is untenable, so I want to know when I'm doing okay in order to concentrate my stress and worrying in the areas where it is needed most.

There was an article in the Star last week about how they can get people to improve their environmental behaviour by telling them how they're doing in comparison to others.

This would totally work for the karmameter, and it would be way easier to make than an absolute karmameter. It would totally achieve the intended results too. For example, I know from statistics that my environmental footprint is significantly lower than the average person's, so I don't stress too much about environmental stuff. If we karmametered every aspect of life, I could then find areas where I'm not doing nearly as well as the average person and work on those areas without stressing about things that I don't need to stress about.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Open Letter to all journalists writing about pay equity

Apparently there are parts of the recent federal budget that would be detrimental to pay equity for federal employees.

Problem: we don't know how pay equity for federal employees currently works.

I know one thing that a lot of commenters don't seem to know: it isn't individual, it's by profession. So it isn't that Jane catches a glimpse of John's paystub and sees that he's earning more than her even though they both went through the same university program and graduated at the same time and were hired at the same time. It's that female-dominated professions are not being paid the same as male-dominated professions who do work of equal value and difficulty that requires equal expertise. Apparently (this was told to me several years ago by someone who is in a position to know, so any inaccuracies are the fault of my misremembering or misunderstanding) what they do is they reduce the difficulty and skill and education and stress required to do every job in the federal public service down to a mathematical formula to quantify the value of the work, and then compare the female-dominated jobs with male-dominated jobs of equal value. If the female-dominated profession isn't being paid the same as the male-dominated profession, they increase the pay for everyone in the public service (male and female) that's doing that profession.

However, I don't understand what the current changes would do, because I don't know what's going on currently. I see media saying that the proposed changes would be detrimental, but I don't know why they're detrimental because I don't know what the current system is.

I don't like to just blindly take people's word for things, I want to understand them properly. If you give me all the information I'll probably be on your side, but if you don't give me all the information I can't form a proper opinion, and therefore am going to take no action and express no opinion because I'm insufficiently informed. Help me out here, okay?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sometimes I hate my inner child

When I got to the elevators, there was a gaggle of teenage girls waiting. They were quite obviously The Cool Girls in the hierarchy of their little adolescent world.

I'm twice their age. I was on my way home to my very own apartment in a very nice building in a very nice neighbourhood. I had just spent my day doing difficult and fascinating work that would make you go "OMG that is SO COOL!" if I told you what it was. I am by objective standards hotter and better dressed than they are. The staff at that mall store that they're complaining watches them like they're going to steal something are actively polite to me, helping me find sizes and figure out which necklace works best, but also happily leaving me alone if I'm just browsing. And I could go into Holt Renfrew or a real estate agent or a car dealership and get treated with equal consideration, at least to my face.

But, because they're The Cool Girls and I've never been, some instinct from half a lifetime ago kicked in, and I lowered my eyes and tried to become invisible.

I hate it when that happens.

Things They Should Invent: redistributive cosmetics

I use powder to make my forehead less shiny and gloss to make my lips more shiny. I use concealer to make the skin under my eyes lighter and shadow to make the skin over my eyes darker. I spend a lot of money and effort on growing more hair on my head and less hair elsewhere on my body.

There must be a better way! Can't they invent something to just relocate stuff from one area to another?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gorgeous sled dogs!

Clicky! (No, I don't know why the Toronto Star randomly has pictures of sled dogs.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We need to refine our use of the word "rights"

You do not have the right to have a cup of coffee in the morning.

"WTF?" you're thinking, "I totally do."

No, you don't.

You're totally allowed. It's perfectly legal. It's your own coffee purchased with your own hard-earned money. No one is going to stop you. Most people will even offer you coffee if you haven't had any yet.

But it isn't a right. It isn't codified in the Charter or anywhere else.

This is a problem with our current usage. We tend to use the word "rights" to refer to stuff that you're allowed to do, not your actual codified legal rights. Even though we understand intellectually the meaning of capital R Rights, if someone tells us we don't have the right to something, we hear that we aren't allowed to do it.

I don't know if it's because of this or just related, but there's a lot of other sloppy usage. I've heard people say "Voting is a privilege, not a right!" Except it's totally a right. You sometimes hear people complain that people are so worried about their rights but not thinking about their responsibilities, as though they're opposites or prerequisites or something.

Let's watch our usage. It's an important word for an important concept. It won't help to weaken it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Monday, February 09, 2009

25 random facts about me

1. On my right hand, my ring finger is longer than my index finger. On my left hand, my index finger is longer than my ring finger.

2. For the vast majority of my life, I've felt like everyone except me knows the rules of how the world works.

3. Both my parents are afraid of bugs like I am (although they have a remarkable ability to charge to the rescue when their child is having a panic attack). However, they decided, as many parents do, to make a specific effort to prevent me from developing the same fear by hiding their fear and teaching me to respect and appreciate creepy crawlies. So one day when I was a toddler, a rather large spider started making a home outside the sliding glass doors that led to our back deck. Rather than getting rid of it, they had me look at it from the other side of the glass and talked to me about how interesting it was and how it's good and helpful because it will catch and eat bad bugs. I watched it with some interest over what seemed like a rather long period of time (although it might have been just a couple of days). Then one day, I don't remember if it was my idea or my father's, we decided to go out on the back deck to see its web from the other side. The web was taller than me. And three dimensional. I ran away screaming and my phobias started that day.

4. When I was a small child, the dresser in my bedroom turned into a monster at night. Oh sure, it just sat there very very still, but I KNEW it was going to get me. So I got the biggest and strongest of my toy smurfs - named Hefty after the strongman smurf in the cartoon - and put him on my head. With Hefty on my head, the monster would think I'm a moose and then it wouldn't get me. (Everyone knows monsters only eat little girls, not meese.) It worked! The monster didn't get me! So I did the same thing again the next night. And the next night. And basically every night of my life when I was alone in bed. I still have Hefty and, even though none of my furniture turns into monsters any more, to this day I sleep better with him on my head.

5. If the first time I try a new food it doesn't taste like what it looks like it should taste like, I dislike the food. I can't even evaluate it objectively - I'm immediately put off because it wasn't what I was expecting. I have no idea what potato salad even tastes like, but it tasted nothing like what I was expecting the first time I tried it so now I can't even bring myself to eat it.

6. I can't stand fresh in-season organic tomatoes. They have way too much flavour. My stomach turns at the idea of a bright red tomato fresh from the garden, but I don't mind the slightly orangish kind that have come up on a truck from California.

7. I've been vegetarian since the age of 13. The only thing I miss is chicken noodle soup. Imagine Organics used to make something called No-Chicken Broth that closely duplicated the flavour, but I can't find that any more so once again I'm in the market for a yummy vegetarian chicken soup.

8. I find randomness satisfying. I listen to my ipod on shuffle while I'm working, and make rules for myself that I'm allowed to take certain kinds of breaks when songs meeting certain criteria come up. I put a bunch of books in my library holds list and read them in the order they come in, never knowing what's going to come in next. When I was a kid I'd dress my barbies by closing my eyes and reaching in to the big box of clothes and pulling out a handful of stuff and then trying to make an outfit from it. I make life decisions for my Sims by rolling dice (or, rather, by using a dice server.)

9. I got my first zit at the age of 9 and found my first grey hair at the age of 19. If genetics are any indication, I'm going to have both zits and grey hair at the same time for the rest of my life.

10. I'm the shortest one in my extended family of my generation. I felt emasculated the first time one of my younger cousins surpassed my height.

11. I have never in my life successfully initiated or escalated a relationship, whether romantic or platonic. From saying "Let's be friends!" on the kindergarten playground to rounding the sexual bases to setting the precedent of sharing funny news articles with the guy in the next cube, every successful relationship upgrade has been the other person's doing. Every time I've tried, I've failed.

12. All my friends are by every objective measure completely out of my league. I am constantly astounded that they deign to associate with me.

13. When I was a teenager, I would sometimes learn about things that boys I had crushes on were into. This never once helped me make any progress with any of these boys. However, I have since had a number of good friendships develop on the foundation of interests I nurtured in adolescent attempts to impress boys.

14. I have never been to a sporting event, apart from the occasional high school basketball game that I'd go to to get out of class and then sneak out of and go home at the first available opportunity.

15. Based on my genetics, I'm going to live past 100. I'm not thrilled with this. It's a huge financial planning problem.

16. I hate travelling. In theory I want to be open to new cultures and new experiences and practice my languages, but I just hate being beholden to itineraries and check-out times. It's work to me, not relaxation. In my apartment and in my neighbourhood, I have all the comforts and pleasures I need - a computer set up just the way I like it, a bathroom stocked with every little thing I might need and an essentially unlimited supply of well-pressured hot water, any food I might want readily available - and I hate the idea of spending my valuable savings and vacation time in an environment that meets my needs less perfectly. If you told me I was never going to leave Toronto again in my life, it wouldn't bother me one bit.

17. I can wrap the fingers of one hand completely around the widest part of the other hand. In other words, I can make a circle around my right wrist with the thumb and middle finger of my left hand (and vice versa) and pull my right hand completely through the circle without the thumb and middle finger losing contact with each other. I've never met anyone else who can do this.

18. I find asking myself "What would Eddie Izzard do?" far more helpful than it rightfully should be.

19. When I first entered translation school, I was a literalist prescriptivist. However, doing my first assignment, I found I just couldn't make a workable translation following the literalist prescriptivist philosophy that I thought was necessary. Frustrated and with deadline looming, I threw my hands in the air, saying "This is hopeless! I'll never be a translator! This thing is due and I don't know what to do, so I'll just write in English what the author of the source text really means!" I got an A+ on the assignment. I looked at the prof and thought "Ha! Tricked him!" It took probably half a dozen more instances of thusly tricking profs into giving me A's before I realized that idiomatic translation was the way to go.

20. When I was 10 or 11, shortly after menarche, I had a strong biological yearning to have a baby. However, I was not yet emotionally or hormonally capable of sexual attraction. The idea of even kissing anyone repulsed me. I was about 15 by the time sex seemed theoretically appealing, and by then I was childfree.

21. I lost my last baby tooth in Grade 9 music class.

22. Even though I know fully well how linguistic innovation works, whenever I hear someone else adopt a word or phrase that they got from me, I can't quite shake the feeling that maybe they're making fun of me.

23. I once underwent a psychiatric assessment during which the doctor asked me if I have the need to keep checking if the door was locked. I had never in my life felt the need to keep checking if the door is locked. However, when I went home that night and every night since then, I've had the need to check multiple times that the door is locked. I had to develop the habit of locking it and saying out loud to myself "Door is locked" so that I'd retain the fact that it's locked and not have to keep checking it.

24. I have never had a hangover.

25. This post has been sitting in my drafts for several days and I still can't think of a 25th thing to say.

Parental forgetfulness

I've blogged before about how odd it is that parents seem to lose the ability to identify with the child half of a parent-child relationship, but this one blew me away.

I overheard part of a conversation where a mother of teens was talking to the mother of a baby. The baby's mother was talking about how much angst they were going through with teething, and the teens' mother said "Just wait until I tell you what happens when she gets her period!" The baby's mother replied "Don't even tell me!"

It's like they have no firsthand memory of what it's like to get your first period! The baby's mother is my age so there's no reason why she shouldn't remember her early teens, and it is her biological child that she gestated herself so I know she menstruates. But they're talking about this as though it's something completely Other that happens to your kids rather than something that we've all been through!

Things I Don't Understand

1. Why on earth would anyone want two bathrooms in a one bedroom condo?

2. Why is there such thing as a combination curling and straightening iron (who's the target market for this?) but there's no such thing as a curling iron with interchangeable barrel sizes?

I wish I could be into Twitter

I like the idea of Twitter. Often when I'm nowhere near a computer I think of brief ideas that I'd like to post. I'd love to follow Levar Burton's attempt to quit smoking or tweet at the TTC's director of communications when there's a subway delay. And I'd totally want to be twittering early reports next time I'm in the presence of breaking news.

But there are just too many tweets. I could never keep up with all the incoming. I come home to nearly 100 new posts a day in my Google Reader alone - I just can't add another thing.

If I didn't have to have a full-time job, I'd be a kick-ass twitterer. I'd have a fun and witty feed and follow everyone I've ever heard of and come up with clever things that would make John Cleese reply to me. But unfortunately I don't have room for that much more internet commitment on top of a full-time job, and even the best twitter feed in the world won't pay the rent.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Free mashup bunny

Let It Bleed vs. Bleeding Love

I think it might even work harmonically.

How to get people to buy local

If the powers that be want people to buy Canadian-made products, they need to make it easy for us to find Canadian-made products. If I want drinking glasses, for example, and I want them to be Canadian-made, all I can do is wander from store to store checking where their drinking glasses were made. No one has time to do that!

What they should do is make a website of every single product that is made in Canada - searchable and categorized - along with a complete list of where to buy these products both in person and online. Then I can go to this website, look up drinking glasses, and see what's available and how much it costs and where to buy it.

"You're so quiet! You never talk!"

When I was a kid, my peers would often say to me "You're so quiet!" "You never talk!" I had no idea what to say in response.

As an adult I'm better at thinking of clever responses than I was as a kid, but to this day I still have no idea what they wanted or expected me to say in response to that. Now I'd probably answer "You're so quiet!" with "Aren't you glad?" and "You never talk!" with "What do you want me to talk about?" (wide eyes, raised eyebrows, open hands, body language communicating that I'm ready and willing to talk about whatever it is but I have no idea what it is). But I still have no idea how they expected me to answer or what they were getting at.

Googling around this idea, I found stories of other people being asked outright "How come you never talk?" or "Are you always this quiet?" I think today I'd answer these questions with "It's either that or babble mindlessly. I suck at coming up with the appropriate quality and quantity of conversation." I've found in general that when I openly, matter-of-factly and unapologetically state my personality flaws, people act like they don't believe me or like they think I'm kidding, but it totally smooths over the potential tension from those personality flaws. For example, someone wanted to take my picture, so I said "Only if you let me fix my make-up first. I'm entirely too vain and shallow to let anyone take my picture with imperfect make-up." She acted like she thought I was kidding, but she still patiently waited while I fixed my make-up before she took the picture, which has NEVER happened before! Usually I get a candid picture taken against my will and/or a bunch of crap about being so vain and shallow as to not want my picture taken with a shiny forehead.

Things They Should Invent: everyone express all dynamic opinions dynamically


"I don't like him."


"The more I get to know him, the less I like him."

There's a difference, isn't there? The second one has a bit more credibility, it shows that the speaker is not stubbornly set in their ways or completely ignorant of the dude's true nature.

However, if the second speaker is not explicitly trying to convey the dynamic nature of their dislike, they may well simply say "I don't like him."

I think all communication would be clearer if everyone would make a point of expressing dynamically ideas and opinions that are dynamic, and reserve static statements for static opinions.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Things They Should Invent: computer program to find the right medication based on side-effects

Claritin and Reactin make me fall asleep if I use the drowsy version, and make me a tiny bit high and spaced out if I use the non-drowsy version. Allegra keeps my brain in the right place, but raises my eye pressure (and probably my blood pressure too, but eye pressure is most obvious to me.)

I want software or a website that will extrapolate from this information to tell me which allergy med is most likely to work for me. I know doctors and pharmacists might be able to do this, but it's not like I want to actually talk to another human being.

If it's a website, it could learn from the collective wisdom of its users. People input which meds worked for them and which gave them what side-effects, and the program could use that to predict what will happen for future users.

(Barring that, I wouldn't mind having another pill to take to cancel the allergy meds. High eye pressure is better than not being able to breathe because of the cat dander, but it's an annoyance when I'm no longer in the presence of the cats and don't need to be protected from them any more.)

Puppies learning to walk!

I recently learned that puppies aren't really able to walk when they're born. Which means that puppies go through a stage where they're learning to walk. I know human babies are ridiculuous cute when they're learning to walk, so imagine how cute puppies learning to walk must be!

Fortunately, we live in the age of YouTube, and it came through with flying colours.

It seems a key developmental stage is not knowing or caring the different between stepping on the floor and stepping on your siblings.

Reusable bags that are actually useful!

While I still resent having to use reusable shopping bags even though I came up with a better idea, I am happy to that Kitchen Stuff Plus has bags that will smush up nice and small to fit into my purse (unlike those ridiculous LCBO bags that require switching to a larger purse every time I want to pick up a couple of bottles of wine.)

They fold up to just slightly larger than a deck of playing cards, but they unfold really big. Like ridiculously huge, actually. You could be photographed nude holding it in front of you and your modesty would be protected. Today I had two of those big salon shampoo bottles and a big library-type hardcover book in my bag, and it looked laughably empty and oversized. Then I added two bottles of wine, and it was maybe a third full. (Yeah, I know, the contents of my shopping bag make me look snooty and decadent. But I'm stimulating the economy and facilitating environmentally responsible behaviour among my readership, so shut up.)

The only downside is that because they are so big, they might be too big for short people who want to carry them in their hand instead of over their shoulder. I'm 5'7" and when I'm in stocking feet the bottom of the bag is only like 4-6 inches off the ground when I hold it in my hand with my arm hanging straight down. However, it has wide straps so it does comfortably carry on the shoulder or the elbow. I had nearly 4 L of liquid in there plus a big book, and it was effortless to carry on my shoulder or my elbow. (A plastic shopping bag with 4L on my elbow is a little bit uncomfortable. Not unworkable and doesn't make me want to go straight home instead of stopping at another store, but it's not nothing. This bag was nothing.)

If you're in the market for a reusable that will fit in your purse, these are definitely worth looking at.

Friday, February 06, 2009

No wonder we have a national inferiority complex

See these babies?

In the US they retail for $29.99. In Canada they retail for $49.99. In the US, you can buy them from the website and they go up to size 13. In Canada, you can't shop through the website and you're very very lucky if the stores have a few random stray size 11s (and you have to go to each store to check.) In the US, they come in black and yellow. In Canada, I've seen them only in black.

On top of all this, the US website won't even ship to Canada. Not even for exorbitant shipping costs. They could totally have charged me $20 shipping on a $29.99 purchase and I would have still have come away feeling like I won. But no, they won't deign to let me buy their shoes for any price, leaving me with no choice but to wander from store to store, cap in hand, begging for a rare and precious scrap of size 11 at a 60% markup.

Things They Should Invent: dog parks for apartment buildings

There are notices up in my building telling people not to walk their dogs on this one patch of grass because it belongs to the building next door. There are a lot of dogs in my building because it's actively pet-friendly, but there isn't really a good place to walk them.

However, I think if they re-arranged the landscaping a bit, replaced some of the purely decorative bits with grass and consolidated the driveway into a more sensible arrangement, we could have a grassy area that could serve as a suitable dog park for our building. Maybe not for the German Shepherd or the guy with two Rottweillers, but it would be fine for the terriers and Shih Tzus that make up the majority of dogs living in our tiny apartments.

My old apartment building had a lot of stuff on the grounds. We shared a sort of courtyard area with several other buildings, and in it there was an outdoor pool and tennis courts and a grassy patch with picnic benches (just metres from the dumpsters!). They could totally have fit a small dog run in there, taken out the tennis courts and pool and had a decent-sized dog park. The vast majority of the time the tennis courts and pool would be empty, but there was always someone out there walking a dog!

I really think this could be desirable amenity in high-rise buildings. It would be almost as good as having a backyard! It would hardly require any maintenance - just put up a fence and maybe cut the grass once in a while - and it would have far fewer liability issues than a pool.

Why don't I type faster?

I started learning to type at the age of 9 with this computer game my parents gave me. It was slow going and it took me about a year to be able to touch type, and even then I could only do about 30 wpm. But my speed slowly increased, and by the age of 13 I was doing 100 wpm.

And to this day, I type 100 wpm.

Why hasn't my typing speed increased in the last 15 years? I type at the same speed that I did before the internet! Shouldn't it be getting faster?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Do professional dominatrixes get job training?

Broadsheet wonders why professional dominatrixes don't qualify for insurance.

Which makes me wonder: do they get job training? The article describes their services as "bondage, verbal humiliation, spanking or paddling, whipping and genital torture." I don't know about you guys, but if I were paying good money for genital torture, I'd want a dom who was properly trained in how to not cause any permanent damage.

The article isn't clear, but it makes it kind of sound like people are just wandering into dungeons saying "Yeah, I could totally do that!" But you wouldn't let someone cut your hair if they just wandered into a salon one day and said "Yeah, I could totally do that!"

PBS censors have a sense of humour

PBS is showing George Carlin. He just said "...your neighbour has a vibrator that plays Oh Come All Ye Faithful."

The censor bleeped the word "come".

Which makes it even dirtier.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Why is plastic cheap?

Plastic is made from oil, which is a non-renewable resource.

So why is it cheaper than stuff made from renewable resources?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

How will new Canadian citizenship regulations affect the children of existing pregnancies?

In December, Citizenship and Immigration Canada released new regulations effective April 2009 that will affect the citizenship of children born abroad to expats. If you were born outside of Canada and your child is born outside of Canada after April 2009, your child will no longer be able to automatically inherit your Canadian citizenship.

There are a lot of problems with this, especially among the academic community. Most people I know who do graduate and postdoc work have to go abroad at least temporarily - we're a small country and our academic institutions can't accomodate every researcher in every field - and given the tendency of academics to beget more academics a larger-than-statistical proportion of the PhD and postdoc students I know where born abroad. And the Globe and Mail article and chat do cover the vast majority of the issues that I see here.

But there's one thing that hasn't been mentioned and seems both urgent and important: what about children who will lose their citizenship due to this change and are currently in utero?

The change was announced in December to take effect in April. That means that some of the children who will be affected had already been conceived when it was first announced. When the announcement was made, these kids already had a midwife and a birth plan and maternity leave arrangements, all of which were made with the assumption that the kid could inherit their parent's citizenship.

So now, with only a few months' notice, the expat parents have to change all their plans to arrange for the birth to take place in Canada. They have to find housing in Canada, find a midwife on short notice, start their maternity leave earlier so they can get home before they're too far along to fly. If they're following the traditional model where the mother takes mat leave and the father keeps working, the mother will have to go home to Canada by herself and maybe even be alone for the birth because they've already done all their financial planning on the assumption that the father will be staying at his job. And if, despite all the frantically re-arranged plans, the baby arrives prematurely while still in the other country but after April 2009, it will lose its right to Canadian citizenship and, if it's born in a country that doesn't have birthright citizenship, may well end up stateless.

What's going to happen to these kids? Why hasn't anyone thought of this?

Why does Michael Ignatieff's name end in -ff?

The surname Ignatieff is Russian. There is no double F in Russian.

Michael Ignatieff's Russian-born father spelled his name Игнатьев in Russian, and the standard English transliteration of the Cyrillic в is V.

So how did it end up being Ignatieff instead of Ignatiev, or even Ignatief?

Today I am ashamed of Ontario

A sexual assault victim is forced to uncover more of her body than she is comfortable with while testifying in court.

Shame on you Mr. Justice Norris Weisman.

I am so surprised to see this coming from a judge. I read a lot of court decisions for someone who doesn't work in the legal field (they're an excellent translation resource) and the usual more I read the more respect I have for judges. The vast majority of the time they come across as measured and nuanced and intelligent.

But this is just so...wrong! It's like something a 9-year-old would come up with parroting a closed-minded parent without applying critical thinking skills.

I look forward to the Superior Court overturning this decision and setting a sensible precedent.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Currently wondering

1. Is there a statute of limitations on children's drawings? Several years ago, a co-worker's very friendly and outgoing child wandered into my office and made friends and drew me some pictures, which I proudly posted on my cubicle wall. Today I realized that that kid is now a teenager and might not want her childish drawings being displayed. Should I take them down? If I take them down, is it creepy if I keep them? I like them, they're cute and funny, but it seems like the sort of thing that might not be appropriate.

2. In TV and movies, actors have a lot of lines to memorize but don't have to repeat them that much (unlike on stage). After a scene is filmed, they don't need to know those lines any more. So how long do the lines stick in their head for?

3. Inspired by the fact that London is apparently currently crippled by six inches of snow, in places where they get snow so rarely that the city doesn't own snow removal equipment, do people own snow shovels? If not, what exactly do they do with all the snow? It needs to be removed at some point.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Comparative sensitivity

I was reading a review on some random blog of a book I'd recently read and enjoyed, and I was surprised to find them describe the book as particularly dark. This surprised me because I found the book fun. It isn't complete sunshine and rainbows - it's a murder mystery - but I like the characters and they have good rapport and I enjoy spending time in that universe. So it was strange to me that someone else found it dark, because in my corner of the world I'm one of the most sensitive people I know. I don't have a very high tolerance for darkness as compared with the other people around me, I'm more likely than most people to put aside a book or turn off the TV because it's just too much, and I need more than other people to deliberately expose myself to happy stuff so my mood doesn't get too dark and mess up my ability to function.

But it seems there's this other person out there who responds sensitively to things that I find purely entertaining. So this means there's a whole nother level of sensitivity out there among perfectly normal functioning adults that I didn't even know about.

I wonder how many more there are?

Questions Ugly Betty needs to answer

Why does Hilda have customers? She's a brand new hairdresser with a chair set up in a spare corner of the family home. But she always has customers. Why? This is New York City, I'm sure there are lots of hairdressers around, the fact that she's there and she's a hairdresser shouldn't be enough to get her customers. Are her prices better? Is her location particularly convenient? Is she getting referrals? Someone should mention something in passing, because it really doesn't make sense.